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Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

A frequently encountered brightly coloured butterfly that favours open areas as well as woodland edges. 


  • Comma: punctuation marks

    Post date: Wednesday, 29 July, 2015 - 00:00

    A comma (Polygonia c-album) butterfly in our garden always causes a bit of excitement. At first sight it is somewhat like a fritillary and to have a fritillary of any description in the garden would be immense! That said, the comma is such a lovely insect it is always welcome. It gets its name from the distinctive white comma shape on the underside of the wing.

    Commas can actually be seen from January to December depending on the weather. They over winter by hibernating as adults and can emerge on any day in winter if the weather is encouraging. These insects that have hibernated lay eggs in April and May and these then form the first brood and laying eggs that hatch around July and August to provide the second brood. The second brood are the insects that will then hibernate until the following spring.

    The food plant of the comma larvae is primarily the common, or stinging, nettle but it is also found on all sorts of shrubs and trees and, apart from gardens, you can encounter the comma almost anywhere as it favours open areas as well as woodland edges. Once uncommon the comma has done well in recent years and can now be seen frequently across the whole county.


  • Comma in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

    Post date: Monday, 6 May, 2019 - 21:23

    With its rather irregular, almost ragged, wing edges the comma is unique in appearance and familiar to many as they freely venture into shrubby parks and gardens although their main habitat is broadleaf woodland where they can be seen patrolling woodland rides and glades. The males are somewhat territorial and will attack any other male coming within their chosen patch; females however are made very welcome! Like others in the same family they hibernate over winter but will readily emerge on warmer winter days to feed and so may be seen at almost anytime of year apart from a break in June between first and second broods. Nettles form the food plant of the larvae and the second brood adults are very often seen around brambles and enjoy blackberries.

    Apart from one report in week 8 in February and one in week 43 in October the records in the Nature of Dorset tweets database show emergence of the comma from hibernation in week 11 towards the end of March and then reports have come weekly through until week 18 at the later end of May. The inter-brood break seems to last until week 24 in late June and then the reports again regular until  week 33 at the end of August. Interestingly there is then another break until a further flurry of activity from week 37 to week 39 in September so that may be evidence of a third brood here in the south?

    There are reports of comma butterflies from seventy three sites in Dorset and the list is made up primarily of woodland and scrubby sites but heathland and coastal habitats also feature which shows how diverse and widespread they can be.


Common Name Comma
Scientific Name Polygonia c-album
Species Group Nymphalid Butterflies Admirals and Fritillaries
Interest Level
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Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
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Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Nymphalid Butterflies Admirals and Fritillaries